“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5
Like Pamela who posted earlier in the week, I truly love “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The iconic cartoon is one of my favorite Christmas specials. The soundtrack plays on repeat both at home and in my office.
There is a particularly poignant moment after Charlie Brown brings back the pitiful little Christmas tree for the Christmas pageant. After being criticized, mocked, and laughed at, Charlie Brown cries out, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!?”
Linus then says, “Sure Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” Linus then recites from Luke the message of the angel of the Lord to the shepherds: “Do not be afraid; for see– I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger.”
It was a powerful moment for tv when it first aired, and it continues to be so today. Everything fades out: the music, the laugh track, the other characters…just a child’s voice reading a significant portion of scripture at the climax of the show.
Saint John, the Apostle and Evangelist, is very much like Linus proclaiming what Christmas is all about. After all: “This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them, and we know that his testimony is true.”
St. John’s Episcopal Church in Columbia, SC is a spiritual home for me. They called me into full-time youth ministry and then sent me to seminary to become a priest. That community shaped and formed me in profound ways, and so Saint John became a saint of identity for me. At some point during that time, I became explicitly aware that the prologue of John was the Gospel reading for the first Sunday after Christmas. I came to see this passage as John’s Nativity, the theological underpinning of the Lukan narrative that is so beloved:
“And the Word became flesh and lived among us…full of grace and truth.”
When I think of Saint John as an apostle and evangelist, I am particularly drawn to an earlier proclamation of the prologue.
“What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”
The theme of light resonates deeply during this season of Christmas. This message of hopeful light resonates when light sometimes feels scarce, when light breaks in and pushes back against the darkness.
I am reminded of the wisdom from Sister Joan Chittister, who writes in Scarred by Struggle:
“Hope is not a matter of waiting for things outside us to get better. It is about getting better inside…it is about allowing ourselves to believe in the future we cannot see…about trusting in God…Hope is what sits by a window and waits for one more dawn, despite the fact that there isn’t an ounce of proof in tonight’s black, black sky that it can possibly come…Hope is the last great gift to rise out of the grave of despair.”
This is the gift of grace and love proclaimed by Saint John: that God is light…the light that cannot and will not be overcome by darkness. That God is the light that rises and burns and shines to cast out darkness.
This is an image that children and people of all ages can grasp and hold onto. Hope as light that pours in as a flood to comfort and encourage. Hope as light found through the joy and grace of community. Hope as a light that calls us and beckons us towards the God who is with us.
On this Feast of Saint John, the Apostle and Evangelist, may you know the hope of God’s light and share that light with someone who needs it.
How do you explain hope to your kiddos and family?
How do you talk about difficult things that maintain a sense of God’s hope and light?
How is the Nativity story a story of hope and light for you? How do you talk about that with your kiddos?
[Image & Quotation Credits: The Adoration of the Shepherds: with the Lamp by Rembrandt, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. Biblical quotations come from the NRSV translation. Chittister, Joan D. Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 110-111]